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Christopher Mukasa: Harnessing genetic diversity for conservation, disease resistance and improved productivity of goats in Uganda and Nigeria

5f29c.jpgChristopher Mukasa is a Research Geneticist at the National Animal Genetic Resource Centre and Data Bank in Entebbe, Uganda. He is also the Principal Investigator for a project  - “Harnessing  genetic  diversity  for  conservation, resistance to disease and improving productivity in some African goats” and a recipient of the Africa Biosciences Challenge Fund (ABCF) fellowship.

Christopher was awarded a fellowship for a period of five and a half months from 12 June – 21 November 2012, to study the  genetic diversity of indigenous goats in Uganda and Nigeria.

Goats serve as a secure form of investment, a means of income, source of manure and for various religious and ceremonial functions to many communities in sub-Saharan Africa. Indigenous goat breeds are more important to small-scale farmers than cattle since they are easier to acquire and maintain. These animals often provide the only practical means of utilizing vast areas of natural grasslands in the areas where crop production is uneconomical.

The primary constraints faced by goat smallholders in sub-Saharan Africa are mortalities;     reduced production due to diseases caused by internal and external parasites; and direct costs associated with pest control.

There  is  well-documented  evidence  for  within  and  between  breed  genetic  variation  in resistance  to  gastrointestinal  nematode  infections;  diseases  due  to mycotoxins; bacterial diseases including foot rot and mastitis; ectoparasites such as flies and lice; and scrapie, the small ruminant transmissible progressive disease affecting the animals’  brain and nervous system. Genetic  disease  resistance  is  particularly  relevant  in  developing  countries,  as  indigenous breeds usually display enhanced resistance to local diseases compared to exotic ones reared in the same environment. However, little is known on the genetic components affecting adaptation to local environments as well as similar ecological regions worldwide.

A better understanding  of genetic diversity of African goats will contribute to sustained genetic improvement and facilitate rapid adaptation to changing environments and breeding objectives, thus meeting growing production needs in various environments.

About his achievements, Christopher says:

"During my fellowship at BecA, I wrote a proposal to study functional genomics and epigenetics in African cattle and candidate gene analysis in sheep and goats for the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). My proposal interested some colleagues from USDA and Cornell University and together we wrote a proposal on functional genomics and epigenetics in African cattle and candidate gene analysis in sheep and goats that will be funded by Cornell University.

The project is being implemented successfully in a few developing countries in Africa. We hope to raise more funds and extend it to as many countries as possible in Africa.

I owe my successful proposal submission and all the skills I am now using in running my project to the time I spent at the BecA-ILRI Hub. Professionally, the BecA-ILRI Hub team is truly my maker. As an alumnus I am committed to doing the Hub proud everywhere that science takes me. I am grateful for the golden opportunity afforded me through the ABCF Fellowship."

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